How to avoid paying alimony before and after divorce

If you’re looking into how to avoid paying alimony (legally), you’ll want to read our guide on the grounds for getting it done.

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What's Inside

A divorce isn’t always a clean financial break. For months or years after your divorce, you might be on the hook for alimony (also known as spousal support).

You can’t refuse to make these court-ordered payments to your spouse. However, you may be able to reduce the likelihood of an alimony order or to legally terminate your obligation early. 

Below, we discuss some possible legal methods for how to avoid paying alimony in some divorce cases. Like any other legal matter, your ability to avoid alimony depends on the state where you’re divorced and your specific circumstances.

How to avoid paying spousal support before the divorce

Preparation is everything in the legal world. And the steps you take to prepare before you or your spouse files for divorce could reduce the likelihood of an alimony order against you. 

In most states, alimony isn’t an automatic right. Courts determine whether a spouse is entitled to alimony according to what is just or equitable and factors such as:

  • The income and resources of each spouse
  • The requesting spouse’s need for alimony
  • The amount of marital property each spouse will receive in the divorce 
  • The earning capacity of the requesting spouse
  • The paying spouse’s ability to pay

Making financial adjustments in your relationship with these factors in mind before splitting might save you a lot of money on the back end of your divorce. The following are potential adjustments you may make before divorcing.

1. Enter a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement

Depending on where you file for divorce, you may negotiate a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement with your spouse in which they waive their right to request alimony, possibly in exchange for other marital assets. Keep in mind that you must follow specific rules in crafting these types of agreements. For example, the agreement may need to be in writing, and each party may be required to fully disclose all their assets for the agreement to be valid. Generally, rules for postmarital agreements are more stringent because there is a greater risk of one party being able to pressure the other unfairly.

2. Encourage your spouse to work or support their desire to work

The main catalyst behind some spousal support awards is the fact that the requesting spouse has been out of the job market for too long and doesn’t have the skills or experience to obtain gainful employment. If your spouse hasn’t participated in the workforce in a significant amount of time, you might want to respectfully encourage them to get back out there and become a competitor in the marketplace. The more self-sufficient a spouse is at the time of divorce, the less likely they typically are to receive alimony.

3. Help your spouse obtain an education

Much like encouraging your spouse to work, helping your spouse get an education may help reduce the chances you will have to pay alimony. If your spouse is educated, you may be able to convince a court that they have the skills to support themselves and that they don’t need alimony. You could help your spouse pay for an education or take on housework or financial obligations in a way that makes obtaining an education easier for your spouse. 

4. Avoid commingling separate assets with marital assets 

When couples divorce, family law courts often distribute marital assets between the spouses and allow each spouse to keep their separate property. Separate property could include:

  • What each spouse owned or acquired before they got married
  • Gifts or inheritance received during the marriage
  • Property purchased with other separate property

If your spouse owned a lot of property before you married, the court might determine that those assets are enough for the spouse to meet their post-divorce financial needs. If your spouse can meet their financial needs, the court may deny their alimony request. 

However, if you commingle your marital assets with your spouse’s separate property, your spouse’s separate property might be treated as marital property that’s less likely to affect your judge’s alimony analysis. This might happen if, for example, you used your wages during the marriage to make payments on a home your spouse owned before marrying.

How to avoid paying alimony during the divorce

If you’re in the divorce process, there are ways you may be able to prevent an alimony award against you or at least limit your liability for spousal support. Consider the following.

1. Understand and thoroughly outline your financial obligations to the court

A court might refuse to grant your spouse’s alimony request if it feels that you can’t make the payments or that the payments would cause you undue hardship. This is why carefully reviewing all your financial obligations and presenting them to the court is important. You might have more liabilities than you realize, and if you can show the court that you have steep financial obligations, it might decide that requiring you to pay alimony is inequitable. 

2. Prove that your spouse committed marital misconduct

Not every state takes marital misconduct into account when awarding alimony. But some states bar spouses from receiving alimony if they behaved badly during the marriage. For example:

  • North Carolina law refuses to grant alimony to a spouse who engaged in “illicit sexual behavior” with another person during the marriage. 
  • Georgia law prohibits alimony if the marriage ended because the requesting spouse was unfaithful. 
  • And Florida law considers a spouse’s adultery when deciding whether to award them spousal support. 

Depending on where you live, if you can prove that your spouse cheated on you, the court might deny them alimony.

3. Prove that your spouse has enough financial resources to support them

Courts in multiple states award alimony based on the requesting spouse’s need for the support. If your spouse has a high-paying job or substantial assets, the court might refuse to give them spousal support. Evidence you may present to the court to prove that your spouse doesn’t need alimony might include:

  • Property titles for the requesting spouse’s separate property
  • The requesting spouse’s tax returns
  • The requesting spouse’s bank and investment statements
  • The requesting spouse’s retirement benefit statements
  • The requesting spouse’s wage records

How to avoid paying spousal support after the divorce

If the court orders you to pay spousal support, you must pay. There may be serious penalties if you don’t. However, the court might allow you to terminate your support obligations early or decrease the amount you pay if you prove that there has been a substantial change in your circumstances since the divorce.

1. Prove that your spouse is remarried or cohabitating with a new partner

Many states end a spouse’s obligation to pay spousal support if the receiving spouse remarries or begins living with a new romantic partner. You can file a motion with the court to end your support obligation once the remarriage or the cohabitation occurs.

2. Prove that your financial situation has changed and your support obligation is an undue burden

If you have a change in your finances that renders you unable to make your alimony payments, the court may end those payments early. A change that warrants termination of your support obligations might include:

  • A demotion
  • A new, costly financial obligation
  • A job loss

3. Prove your spouse engaged in an activity you agreed would end your support obligation

Remarriage and cohabitation aren’t always the only events that end a spousal support award. If you have a premarital or postmarital agreement, you and your spouse may create your own terms for cutting off alimony.

Before your divorce is final, you may also ask the court to identify special circumstances for ending alimony, such as a minor child going off to college. If the event occurs, you may request that the court stop your alimony payments.

Can I refuse to pay spousal support?

No. Once the court orders you to pay spousal support, you must comply. If you don’t comply, you could face serious consequences such as asset garnishment or contempt of court penalties. 

What disqualifies you from alimony?

Depending on where you live, the court may deny your spouse’s request for alimony if you don’t have the financial means to pay or if your spouse engaged in marital misconduct. 

How an attorney may help

If you want to try to avoid the possibility of paying alimony to your spouse, you’ll likely need a lot of evidence. This may include evidence of your finances, your spouse’s finances and your spouse’s behavior. You may collect the evidence on your own, but many individuals find this task easier with the help of an attorney. An attorney knows how to identify the types of proof that may help your case and present that proof to the court in a favorable light.

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Frequently asked questions

Can a prenup prevent alimony?

Yes. In most jurisdictions, the court will enforce a valid prenuptial agreement in which your spouse waived their right to ask for alimony.

Does cheating negate alimony?

Depending on where you live, cheating can negate alimony. Some states don’t consider infidelity when deciding a spouse’s right to alimony, but states like Georgia and North Carolina might use a spouse’s sexual activity with a third party as a reason to deny them spousal support.

Can you move to another country to avoid alimony?

A foreign country might not be able to enforce an alimony order against you. However, if you leave assets behind, the court may be able to seize those assets to pay your spouse the alimony you still owe. And if you ever return from abroad, you could face serious penalties for your failure to pay.

Disclaimer: This article is provided as general information, not legal advice, and may not reflect the current laws in your state. It does not create an attorney-client relationship and is not a substitute for seeking legal counsel based on the facts of your circumstance. No reader should act based on this article without seeking legal advice from a lawyer licensed in their state.

This page includes links to third party websites. The inclusion of third party websites is not an endorsement of their services.

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